Exactly eight years ago, a huge number of PTI workers were gathered at Minar-e-Pakistan Lahore on October 30, 2011 to participate in the historical jalsa. Besides this, people were also sitting in front of their television sets to eagerly listen to thjeir beloved leader Imran Khan.
The impressive coverage by Pakistani media helped PTI transform itself into a prominent political party. Every TV channel was broadcasting live transmission and various TV anchors and analysts were enjoying full freedom to debate on the PTI achievement.
The historical jalsa is also known for changing the dynamics of politics in Pakistan, and as a result, electables from other political parties started joining the PTI movement. It was obviously the power of the media that made Imran Khan’s 22 years tireless struggle fruitful. Slogans related to ‘Naya Pakistan’ and ‘Madina Ki Riyasat’ gained public popularity.
Now eight years after that historical jalsa, it is very unfortunate that media representatives are facing uncertainty under the current government. Most recently, a notification issued by Pemra barred television anchors from expressing their opinions during talk shows in their own or other channels. The regulatory body further asked to ensure that: “Participants/invitees should be selected with due care having credibility as fair and unbiased analysts with requisite knowledge/expertise on the subject matter.”
In reaction, the journalist community termed this as yet another move to curb press freedom. Top anchors, in a joint statement, also recorded their protest. Similarly, intellectuals and opinion leaders belonging to various segments of life including some federal ministers also showed displeasure over this directives.
Freedom of expression is the fundamental right of every person living in a democratic society. Today in the digital era of 21st century, imposing bans on electronic media in such a way is not a laudable step. In a democratic society, nobody should be given the right to decide about the selections of guests in television talk shows.
Around the world, all independent, democratic, and supporters of human rights have one thing common: their independent and vibrant media. Similarly all those countries that are facing poverty, anarchy, exploitation, and violation of human rights have restricted freedom of expression.
Pakistan came into existence as a result of a democratic struggle. Quaid-e-Azam had categorically assured that there would be freedom of expression in Pakistan. He was a strong advocate of using the power of the pen to bring a positive change in society and to make the future bright. Article 19 of our constitution also ensures that every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press.
PM Imran Khan, on various occasions, has showed his commitment to build the country on the pattern of the State of Madina. Here Today, we may have political differences with Maulana Fazlur Rehman. We may disagree with his manifesto, but we must not forget that he holds a prominent position in our national politics. Now, If he is using his democratic right of protest, then stopping media for not providing him due coverage is sheer violation of democratic process.
Although Pemra has now issued a new statement to explain its position on the controversial notification, it seems that the present government is continuously making such mistakes. As a sincere PTI worker and well-wisher, it is my opinion that we should avoid all such factors, including usage of offensive language and unnecessary policies that brought all political parties against us and now media is also feeling threatened by us.
Rather than becoming a hurdle for the media, we should strengthen independent, free and vibrant media. We should also identify all those advisers who are bringing a bad name to the present government.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.